Football is now the most popular sport in Wales ahead of rugby for the first time

Football has replaced rugby as the national sport of Wales, according to an independent audience research report.

A survey by Nielsen for UEFA asked a representative sample of Wales in 2016, 2019 and 2022 what their favorite sport is. And for the first time this year, football has prevailed.

In 2016, rugby and football were even at 43% each, with rugby having a narrow lead of 42% to 39% in 2019. But the poll for this year shows that football is the nation’s most popular sport by a margin of 47% to 45%.

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The polling firm noted that interest in football in Wales had “significantly increased” since 2019. Interest figures were in line with the European benchmark – mostly concentrated in those aged 35 and under – while adult participation was above average in Europe, which has grown by nine percent over the last three years.

In fact, just general exercise and swimming remain more popular among adults, while soccer is still the most popular sport among children. Rugby as a participatory sport found itself in eighth place among adults and seventh among children.

Interestingly, rugby was seen more positively among respondents. 85% were positive about football compared to 95% for rugby, while 10% were negative about football compared to just 4% for rugby.

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However, negativity towards rugby has increased slightly since 2016, while negativity towards football has almost halved from 18% compared to 2019. That’s not surprising given the contrasting trajectories of the two sports in this country – with Welsh rugby in crisis and the national football team poised for a third major international tournament in six years.

The report also includes advice for the Football Association of Wales to continue raising the popularity of football in Wales. “In order to further increase the popularity of football among women, relevant initiatives (e.g. Be. Football Mentoring Program) should be further promoted,” the report said.

“Highlight recent investments in facilities and infrastructure, [as] this should reinforce positive sentiment towards football in Wales. Capitalize on the national team’s increased interest. Continuation of the player-oriented communication strategy (documentation/storytelling) with the aim of creating role models.”

Noel Mooney, FAW Chief Executive, said: “Overall this report is very positive and I am incredibly pleased to see that the game entrusted to us is now the sport with the greatest interest in the country.

“This independent report is a testament to the hard work of FAW staff, areas, leagues, clubs and volunteers across the country in raising awareness, interest and exposure to our wonderful game.

“Coupled with our strategic goals for Welsh football, this study gives us insights into where we can continue to grow and which areas we need to focus on to improve.”

1,000 respondents were surveyed by Nielsen between April 4 and April 22, 2022.

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